Superstar Chef José Avillez is at it again, and this time he has decided to present us and the city of Lisbon with one of the coolest, most original concepts we’ve seen in a while. The name is Mini Bar and the game is, of course, excellent food. But a different kind of excellent food – this is the Chef having fun.
A cool menu presented in this 1930s inspired theater
As soon as you enter this small, cosy restaurant/bar in the iconic Teatro São Luiz, you are greeted by a friendly face who will show you to your table. As you enter, the decoration really lets you know what you’re in for – wood paneling, art deco lighting, frosted glass dividers and the bright theatrical-looking lights signaling “Mini Bar” above the bar of this 1930s inspired theater bar take you back to the glory years of theater. A cool menu is presented as well as a wine list, where you can choose to order individual dishes, or the degustation menu. We highly recommend the degustation menu, especially if it’s your first time there, because it will take you through the ins and outs of this most wonderful gastronomic experience.
But, what you’re in for is more than just a simple meal, it’s a theatrical experience – keeping in line with the restaurant’s theme – with each dish playing a Tony award-winning part. The first act stars the “Caipirinha” (from Chef Avillez’s Belcanto restaurant), a small green sphere with a crisp outside that melts into a Caipirinha when you bite it, and sets the tone for the rest of the meal – not everything is what it seems.
The second act follows, with the “El Bulli Olives”, from the Chef’s time at the 3 Michelin-starred restaurant El Bulli, the aptly-named “Ferrero Rocher, not what it appears to be!”, which seems like an ordinary Ferrero Rocher until you bite it and find out it’s actually foie-gras, and the Algarve prawns in ceviche.
The third act features a “Tuna Tartar Temaki Cone with Spicy Soy” which words really fail to describe, you really just have to taste it to understand. Really.
The fourth act swiftly follows almost making you forget the absolute perfection that was the Temaki, with some perfectly-cooked “Pan Seared Scallops with Thai flavours”.
The Chef really gets serious for the fifth act, bringing back his famous “JAburger with PDO beef” – simple, elegant and delicious, and the “Veal Rice with Parmesan”, a typical Portuguese dish to set you up for dessert. And what a dessert.
The final act is indeed worthy of a standing ovation, starting with a “Chocolate Cone in 3 Textures with Fleur du Sel and Pink Peppercorn”, which amounts to basically the best cornetto you’ll ever have, and finishes it off with the “Lemon-Lime Globe”, which looks like a larger version of the “Caipirinha” you had at the beginning, but your eyes fool you yet again as you break apart the solid exterior to find a lemon cream inside this oddly large green sphere.
If you’re anything like us, you’ll be back a second time to try out all the things you didn’t the first time, and we’ll leave that to your imagination!
As well as a restaurant, Mini Bar is also a bar, where you can go to have a drink in the trendy Chiado neighbourhood. Music also plays a big part in setting the mood for this place, with a playlist by Vítor Silveira (resident DJ at Lux), and guest DJs on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
Mini Bar was also featured in How to Spend It, here.